Zack Pohuski
Interview was conducted by Bina Ruchi Perino

Where are you from?

I’m from Baltimore. That’s where my family’s from, and I’m living in Baltimore now.

Do you go to school up there?

I was going to school up at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County for public health. Since it’s been very difficult to transition to a lot of online learning, I took a break for the semester to focus on some other things. My partner and I started a reselling business for vintage furniture. I just had a lot of stuff and they did as well, so we just started selling some of it. We were able to start a business from it, and it’s been really great to be able to connect to our community. It’s been interesting and has been going really well.

Do you consider yourself an artist? What has your art journey been like?

That’s a very interesting question because I guess I consider myself an artist, or a photographer, but it’s almost passive. I used to play music and be in a band, then I stopped doing that. I went to school and worked, and just focused on other things. Overall, I’ve always been interested in the arts and photography. I was always a little nervous about what other people would think about what I would produce, so I didn’t get myself out there until the last couple of years, sharing iPhone photography and film photography. It’s been about two years since I started to dabble, and then I seriously started focusing on it as a practice, like a meditative practice. I would walk around to see what I could photograph. Then I started to send my work out to see what would happen, and it’s been pretty interesting. It’s very humbling and strange when people give you kudos for something.

Can you talk more about your style and the themes that you’ve been exploring?

The stuff that I’ve photographed are just things I’ve found walking around or driving. Stuff that I saw and thought was really funny. I think there’s a lot of humor around us. A lot of the objects that I find are made by somebody else. Like, somebody up the street from my house nailed a wooden chair to the front of a house for some reason. I don’t know why, but it looks really strange and out of place. I don’t know if they intended it to be artistic or anything, but I took a picture of it. It’s humor and it’s accidental. I just take ordinary and mundane things that people would normally pass by, and frame it to look like art. At first, I was doing it for myself, and I was curious what others would think is funny. The responses have been interesting, and I never really thought that people would actually like any of it. Everyone sees things a little differently.

Where does your inspiration come from? Are you looking at other artists?

First, I would say my inspiration comes from humor. I find a lot of things just kind of funny and coincidental. I’m more of an introvert, so I enjoy just walking around by myself and observing things that go on. I question the things that I see, like how did it get there, why did someone put that there, who did that, what was there before me and why is this here now? I’d say Instagram has been a really great platform for finding artists who inspire me. There are people who I’ve met through there who are really great photographers. One of my friends, who I met through Instagram, their name is Kevin Baca and they’re out of San Diego. The way that they frame things and see things is absolutely amazing. We see things almost similarly, but they’re on the West Coast, so the colors are muted and their aesthetic is different. My work is a little grittier. Baltimore is more industrial, so that influences the aesthetics of my work. Even watching Baltimore change as a city has inspired me as well. Some of the classics inspire me. Vivien Maier was a fantastic photographer and her work got really popular after she died. William Eggleston too. They’re just able to take the mundane and make it into something really special. They inspire me. I love having books of their work around if I’m ever feeling down or uninspired. They went out and they did it and captured something beautiful.

Back to Instagram though—that itself has been such a great opening to be able to connect with other people and see what they see. Even if they’re not “famous,” there are so many people on there who take wonderful pictures that inspire me. It’s almost become a gallery, like an online gallery, where people are focusing a lot on curation. Many of the artists I have met don’t even consider themselves artists; they’re just everyday people who are taking photos of whatever inspires them in the moment. It’s really interesting to me that some of these people don’t really have anything “physically” out there, especially during the pandemic, so Instagram has been a really great way for people to connect and share work. One thing I really like about Instagram too is that it levels the playing field. It allows other people to shine. It opens up the door for all kinds of artists to have a space without gatekeepers. I’ve been to many art shows and within the art community, not as an artist but as a viewer, and you always see the “larger” artists with spotlights on them while there are so many others. Instagram has kind of broken down that barrier. Especially in cities like Baltimore, it’s still segregated in many ways. There are a lot of Baltimore artists who aren’t white, and Instagram has been able to give those artists a space to showcase their work outside of white gatekeeping artists.

Is photography something you intend on studying or is it a passion you’ll pursue outside of academia?

Photography is a happy accident for me. It’s a way for me to express myself, how I feel, and find grounding within myself. It’s been very difficult to say that I’m a photographer because it’s such a subjective thing. A lot of the time, you have to do a certain thing a certain way and have a certain camera that does certain things. I mainly use my iPhone, and I think it’s really fun to use it. I have the privilege of having an iPhone, but many people do have smartphones, and they open up the door to using any technology to create art. A lot of the time in the photography world, people want to use really expensive DSLR digital cameras or sometimes expensive film cameras. I think it’s fun to tell people I use an iPhone, because some people are like “you’re lying, that’s weird.” But as far as school goes, I’m not going to go to school for photography. I know a good amount about how to use a camera, but I honestly think ignorance is bliss. I try to use whatever inspiration around me as an education. Having a community to follow and be a part of is helpful, but sometimes following can lead to losing your voice. I did study a bit of graphic design when I first went to school and I liked what I was doing, but a lot of people were telling me what to make and what I should do. I felt like that was stifling to my voice and creativity. It turned me off to arts education. That framework can be helpful, but we all want to be wholeheartedly ourselves and express ourselves. When you have that framework, sometimes it can put you in a box. Studying photography might help a lot with the way that I see things, but I like rolling with what I have. I thought about it, but I’m having fun. It’s good for my mental health.

Have you done any exhibitions or been in a gallery? Is that something you’re looking forward to?

I had an opportunity last year, selling prints at a local coffee shop. This year, I had a couple things lined up. In April, one of my pieces was supposed to be up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at an exhibit. There was supposed to be an art show in Montréal by an independent publisher called Ok Cool, but they put out a zine instead to make up for COVID impacting the show. It was supposed to be a bigger year for me, but it didn’t work out. Which is okay. Under the conditions that we’ve seen globally, I just want people to be safe and healthy. I’m self-publishing a zine at the end of this year, it’s a collection of photos I’ve been taking over the last few years.

What is keeping you motivated and inspired in this time? Are there things that you’re looking forward to? Anything you’re hopeful about?

I’m very much hoping, like in the next six to eight months, once a vaccine is in play, that we’re able to have some sort of normalcy, with caution of course. I have so many friends who are performing artists like dancers and musicians, and I see a lot of them struggling right now. But I think we all feel like the arts and humanities are going to boom once we’re able to safely be in rooms again with each other. What’s really been inspiring me is watching people create art and move forward under these conditions. I really hope that the art communities really come together to support each other through this, and that’s what makes me feel motivated. Even starting a small business has been fun. I bought a lamp from a thrift store which was designed by Joe Columbo (not the mob boss, but the designer from Milan), and I am inspired by that too. Looking at design and architecture within furniture has given me some new perspective on my own art.

Click here to add your own text